|Ring Worm performed by Van Morrison ()|
Okay, I'm going to summarize the story as best as I can.
Van Morrison's first recording contract as a solo artist was with a small label called Bang, owned by a man named Bert Berns. Among Bang's hits were "I Want Candy" by the Strangeloves, "Hang On Sloopy" by the McCoys, "Cherry Cherry" by Neil Diamond, and of course "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison.
Bang released Morrison's first album, "Blowin' Your Mind," in 1967. The thing is, Morrison had nothing to do with it. He wanted out of his contract. Berns died in December of that year, but Bang (now run by Berns's wife Ilene) still wanted ten songs from Van. He gave 'em 31.
The Bang Contractuals, as these sessions have come to be known, can be split into three categories: throwaways ("Twist and Shake," "Stomp and Scream"), cynical commentary ("The Big Royalty Check," "Blow in Your Nose" [a play on "Blowin' Your Mind]), and the just plain bizarre.
"Ring Worm" is a member of the third group. First of all, Morrison doesn't sing the lyrics, he speaks them. Second, the lyrics are:
I can see by the look on your face... that you've got ring worm.
I'm very sorry, but... I have to tell you that... you've got... ring worm...
It's a very common disease...
Actually, you're very lucky to have... ring worm, because you may have... had something else.
Finally, after the lyrics comes the most bizarre "singing" I've ever heard. I can't even describe it. You'll have to hear it for yourself. I will say this: if you're familiar with Van's more commercial works, you will be dumbfounded.
Of course, we all know the rest of the story: later in 1968, Morrison signed to Warner Bros., recorded "Astral Weeks," and became a legend. I have friends, however, that believe the Bang Contractuals to be his best album.
The material shouldn't be too hard to find: since its first release (apparently, by a small Portuguese label in 1992), the Bang Contractuals have been released over and over, always as a two-disc set with the more "legitimate" Bang material ("Brown Eyed Girl," etc.) Look for titles such as "The Complete Bang Sessions," "Payin' Dues," and (ugh) "Brown Eyed Beginnings."